These foundations just pledged a historic amount of money to support the transgender rights movement.
2015 has been a breakout year for the visibility of transgender people.
President Obama became the first president to even utter the word "transgender" during a State of the Union address. Transgender model Andreja Pejic was featured in a Vogue photo spread. And former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner took the cover of Vanity Fair to accompany an in-depth interview about coming out as a transgender woman. Also? "Orange Is the New Black" breakout star Laverne Cox was cast in a network TV drama, and Janet Mock was a guest on Oprah's popular show "Super Soul Sunday." And that's just to name a few!
Visibility of trans folk and their issues is one thing, but financial resources to make real progress? That's been in short supply. Which is why this is completely awesome:
A group of nonprofits including the Arcus and NoVo foundations recently announced they're putting $20 million toward transgender issues over the next five years.
It's about time. Transgender leaders and their movement have been dramatically underfunded. And the need for resources has only increased because with more visibility comes, unfortunately, more backlash. More funding means being able to push back against harmful campaigns like ones that frame transgender people as sexual predators so they can't use gender-segregated bathrooms. (Yep, that happens.) It also means being able capitalize on the moment to push for better policies.
To be sure the money really has an impact, the nonprofits are funneling it directly to the community.
Instead of going to organizations that include the T in LGBT as a part of their broader agenda, the money will be directed right to the people who know what trans people need best: transgender leaders and groups.
A report from Funders for LGBTQ Issues found that funding for trans issues is at a record high, with $8.3 million in funding in 2013. No small sum, but that only amounts to 0.015% of all foundation funding in the past 10 years. With the guidance of trans advisors, this coalition will give that percentage a much-needed boost.
The money is meant to empower grantees in a push for meaningful change — both culturally and legally — that will improve the lives of transgender people.
Visibility is good because it's a sign of cultural change and acceptance, but it isn't enough. That's why the coalition is focused on creating long-lasting change with an eye to these issues:
Economic justice: Transgender people are much more likely to be homeless, live in poverty, and experience workplace discrimination and harassment. A whopping 90% of trans people have experienced workplace harassment and discrimination. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that trans people are four times as likely to live in extreme poverty, earning less than $10,000/year.
Improving access to health care: The widespread discrimination that transpeople experience takes a toll on both their physical and mental health. 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, which is exponentially higher than the general population's 1.6% rate. And about half of trans people find themselves playing the role of teacher when they seek health care because so many providers are clueless when it comes to addressing trans needs.
Ending violence: What's often left out of the mainstream conversation about trans issues is that transgender folks — especially trans people of color — face an extremely high rate of violence. A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report found that almost three-quarters of hate violence homicide victims are transgender women, who largely underreport it because they are likely to experience additional violence at the hands of police.
These statistics show just how necessary this funding is.
That $20 million will allow nonprofits and leaders to get meaningful policy on the books that would require transgender people to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And if people don't want to follow non-discriminatory policies? Funding for organizations like the Transgender Law Center will help trans people get representatives fighting for them in court.
The funders hope this new financial commitment will create a domino effect in the philanthropic community.
Hopefully, this will just be the beginning. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Jason McGill of the Arcus Foundation said, "Transgender leaders and their movement have been dramatically underfunded. We anticipate that other funders will join us."